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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume II

188 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of Australia

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of Australia

16 December 1942

I have to thank you very much for your telegram of 14 December and for the texts of your communications to President Roosevelt and of Earle Page's message to Mr. Bruce.2 The views that we have previously expressed on the sub-division of the Pacific theatre have not been altered in the slightest degree, and we are as firmly convinced now as we were then that Australia and New Zealand should be in the one strategical area. However, like you we accepted the arrangements and are doing our best to make them work. It is a great satisfaction to us to know that Australia still holds the same view and, as I am sure you know, we have never been unmindful or unappreciative of the assistance that is being given us by the Commonwealth. The importance to us and to the Allied cause in the Pacific of the magnificent effort made by Australia in New Guinea under such tremendous difficulties is fully realised, and we fully concur in your view that the struggle in New Guinea has important page 155 implications from the point of view of New Zealand's security. The struggle in the South Pacific has, of course, similar implications from the standpoint of the security of Australia, and, as you no doubt know, in spite of the very real manpower difficulties that we are experiencing, we are now in the process of sending a division to New Caledonia which will play its part in operations against the Japanese in due course. There is no doubt whatever in our minds that nothing that happens in the South-West Pacific can fail to affect the South Pacific and vice versa, and we fully share your view that whatever the division of the Pacific we must both regard our problems as one and should co-operate to the fullest possible extent in policy and in the exchange of material, information, and if necessary, of actual forces.

With regard to the question of the return to the Pacific of the 2nd New Zealand Division now in the Middle East, our primary object in raising this matter with Mr. Churchill was to enable us to play a more effective part in operations in the Pacific. We fully realised then, as we do now, that Australian and New Zealand problems are one in essence. Nevertheless, and notwithstanding this general principle, we felt that different considerations did apply to the return of the 9th Australian Division as compared with that of the 2nd New Zealand Division, and that the decision to be made by Australia did indeed differ materially because of different circumstances from that to be made by New Zealand. Of such fundamental importance did the matter seem to us that we felt it necessary to refer it to Parliament in secret session, and it was the unanimous opinion of the House that it would be impossible for us to press at this time for the return of our Division. As you know, I personally and specifically reserved the right to raise the matter again, and I hope it will be possible for us to keep in the closest contact in the future on this question.

2 This message, dated 15 Dec, from the Rt. Hon. Sir Earle Page to the Rt. Hon. S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner for Australia in London, is not published. It contained Page's views on the need for the immediate return of the 9th Division to Australia.